Re: Ibanez J-Custom, USA Custom & Prestige (master reference thread)
OK let's start with the idea that USA Custom (USRG specifically) became J Custom. That just doesn't seem true. These guitars existed simultaneously. Ibanez clearly saw interest in "classier" guitars with wood tops in the post-shred era. A more interesting question would be why make similar guitars both in the US and Japan? Well look at the dollar-to-yen exchange rate during that time. Importing from Japan became incredibly expensive. You can look at what happened to the prices of Japanese sports cars at the same time and watch them all exit the US market by the mid 90's. Take a look at the 1994 US catalog. Many of the MIJ guitars are gone and there are widespread cost cutting measures.
"Sometime in 1995 the RG1808, RG1508, RG1308, RG1302 were sold as J.Custom. These were bland & derivative akin to the USRGs and the later Prestige models that shipped worldwide."
This is just needless editorializing. They are bland and derivative according to who? You? Also, they are derivative of what exactly? FujiGen had previously only made painted and veneer top bodies.
"Were these side projects during slow production time? An acquiescence to tenured luthiers not feeling challenged enough on the production line? We’ll never fully know of course."
What is the point of this? Do you really think Ibanez started this line to give bored luthiers something to do? Why not just stick to the facts that in the mid 90's, Ibanez began selling guitars like this in multiple markets.
"By 1997 Ibanez marketed both J-Custom & Prestige RGs in Japan. Throw it against the wall and see what sticks right?!"
Why is that last sentence in there? If you don't want to discuss possible reasons this may have happened, leave your opinion out.
"While it wasn’t public knowledge at the time, the luthier who setup the Fujigen Custom Shop – Makoto “Nick” Sugimoto – had diverted his attention from Ibanez to establish Sugi Guitars in 2002 (later bringing over experienced Fujigen luthiers)."
OK now you're starting to get somewhere. Nick Sugimoto launched the J.Custom line in 1995. The necks on J.Customs were originally called "Wizard SP" in 1995, changed to "Wizard Special" in 1996 and "J.Custom" in 1997. These are all 3-piece, non-scarf joint necks. J.Custom switched to a 5-piece design in 1998 and the Prestige inherited the old 3-piece neck, marketed simply as "Wizard" in the US on the RG3120. If you've played an RG3120, you'd know that the neck is a Wizard in name only. The profile is totally different than the scarf-joint Wizard necks from the time, because it's a J.Custom neck with a different name on the headstock.
The other interesting thing is the 2001-04 J.Customs, which would have been launched while Sugimoto was still there. You'll find a number of features on those guitars that you only today see on the very high end, Sugi-build J.Customs. In 2005 the JC's switched to more standard FujiGen mass production, with necks much more similar to Prestige guitars and standard FujiGen serial numbers on them.